Red Wing senior defenseman Paige Haley said she feels something different about the ability and attitude of her girls' hockey team.
The Wingers carry the No. 2 seed into Wednesday's Class 1A state tournament. They hope to become the first team other than Warroad or a metro-area private school to win a Class 1A title since their quarterfinal opponent Alexandria did it in 2008.
Red Wing reached the state tournament in 2009 and 2011 but did not receive one of the top four seeds. Last season the Wingers were seeded fourth and fell to eventual champion Breck in the semifinals.
Haley, an offensive dynamo who has signed to play with the Gophers, said those lessons, coupled with games this season against Breck and state tournament qualifiers Blake and North Wright County, taught her team "how to handle tough teams in tight games."
"This is the most talented group we've ever had. We're deeper and more experienced," said Haley, an All-Metro first team pick who scored 20 goals and had 47 assists for the Wingers.
"It seems more like business trip now," Haley said. We're actually going with the idea of accomplishing something at the end that can make our program's history."
North Wright County forwards Rachel King and Maddi Sjelin, both of whom attend St. Michael-Albertville, have qualified for state tournaments in three consecutive seasons. King, a sophomore, finished 14th and Sjelin, a senior, placed 81st in the Class 2A cross-country meet last fall.
In the 2012 Class 2A track and field state meet, Sjelin was sixth in the 800-meter run and eighth in the 1,600 while King was sixth in the 1,600 and fourth in the 3,200.
North Stars ties
First-year Eagan coach Tom Younghans played with the North Stars for portions of six seasons.
Mound-Westonka eighth-grade forward Liz Schepers is the granddaughter of former North Star player and coach Murray Oliver.
On same side once
Red Wing coach Scott Haley played at Lakeville and was a teammate of Blake coach Shawn Reid. No. 2 seed Red Wing and No. 3 seed Blake could meet in Friday's Class 1A semifinals.
Following the action
• Tickets, available one hour before the afternoon or evening sessions, are $17 for adults and $11 for students for championship sessions, and $12 for adults and $8 for students for consolation sessions.
• The semifinals and championship games for both classes will be broadcast live on Ch. 45. The quarterfinals, semifinals and championship games also will be streamed live and free online at www.prep45.com.
• Look for in-game updates, photo galleries and more online during the tournament through the Star Tribune's high school sports partner, www.mngirlshockeyhub.com.
DAVID LA VAQUE